Safaricom is considering offering discounted phones to its subscribers who own counterfeit phones ahead of a deadline to switch them off mobile networks.
In a bid to stifle the thriving counterfeit phones trade in the country, the Communications Commission of Kenya has ordered mobile phone operators to switch off all subscribers who are using fake phones from their networks.
Safaricom now says it may offer those subscribers a chance to own genuine handsets at affordable prices. "Switching off is not the solution," Safaricom Head of Consumer Business, Peter Arina, told The Star. The company has admitted to having about 800,000 subscribers using unidentifiable or unverifiable phones.
Typically, a network operator is able to see a phone's IMEI (International Mobile Equipment Identity) number and its unique 10-digit Mobile Identification number. "The first thing is we are going to go to our network and identify them, then we are going to communicate with them," Arina said "We have to let them know, by the way, that phone you have is not genuine or valid for this network."
Safaricom will then offer the subscribers the opportunity to acquire genuine handsets at an affordable price. The company is the also the country's largest retailer of mobile phones. "We will tell them, you can come to the [Safaricom] shop with that particular number and we will give you a discount on a phone," Arina added. "But you have to come with that number that we contacted you with."
By offering to migrate counterfeit phone owners to genuine handsets, the company may strike a crippling blow to the fake phone industry as the majority of subscribers are on its network. Arina said however that Safaricom could not do it alone and would go ahead to meet with the regulator on September 9.
CCK has reiterated that by the end of September operators will have to implement solutions to remove fake phone users from their networks.